We’ve conveniently ignored the fact that women are employed full time and are full-time moms too says the writer. Picture: Pixabay
A few weeks ago I found myself being a full-time, stay-at-home dad caring for my 4-month-old baby daughter while mom went back to work after maternity leave. I loved every second of it and even said publicly that if I were of the means I’d love to make it a permanent thing.

It’s the bubble of making a whole other human being your priority that I loved most (sometimes even at the expense of your own personal hygiene!).

On the first day of my stay-at-home dad stint I nailed the first challenge - feeding her expressed breast milk from a bottle. This was no mean feat because she had only ever been breast-fed since birth so it was rewarding when she latched after resisting for a few minutes.

But more rewarding was the idea that I had invested in this one a bit more than her siblings. It started minutes after she was born when I was determined for her to latch on to mom’s breast. It wasn’t as altruistic as it sounds. Have you seen the price of baby milk formula?

My investment with last-born was paying off. With her siblings I lamented the fact that they seemed to be more connected with mom for at least 18 months before they connected with me. Perhaps with the others the determination to carve a career took up too much of my time.

Before her birth I converted a bedroom into a nursery and did all the painting and décor myself. I made it my business to change nappies, give baths, burping (the baby, not me) and rocking her to sleep. And with each milestone it gave me immense satisfaction - more so than any career move has ever given me.

But as I shared my experiences with friends and family I became agitated with their notion that I was somehow babysitting. How can you babysit your own child?

I was frustrated with the babysitter label until a very clever radio presenter and producer Terence Mentor - who is also a very dedicated dad - shared his recent Washington Post column with me.

Terence also became riled with the babysitter tag. But he quickly came to realise that us dads only have ourselves to blame. He argues that we’ve earned the label thanks to our behaviour and our generation will have to take it on the chin.

For too long we’ve gone along with the hunter-gather role as dads, in our minds going out to provide, while mom assumed the role of primary caregiver. Somehow we’ve conveniently ignored the fact that women are employed full time and are full-time moms too. It’s antiquated, patriarchal and sexist. It needs to change.

In my dad’s days this was the norm. So much so that a typical conversation with my dad can consist of a short catch-up with one-word answers and sometimes even a grunt!

But that’s okay, I guess, because my siblings and I were never short of what we needed. I would rather though, in hindsight, have learnt about the birds and the bees from my dad and from less frivolous sources of media.

These days it’s different. The world is a crazy place. Kids need fathers to be present and active.

My conscious decision to be an active dad changed when my daughter brought home a picture she drew at school of her family. Every family member seemed happy and engaged while my likeness was clutching a cellphone. That wasn’t right, I thought.

In a weird way my dad is now a different dad too. I see it in his interactions with my kids, his grandchildren, and I look at it simultaneously with envy and pride. He is the dad I want to be, and the dad I’m going to be.

* Follow Abarder on Twitter @GasantAbarder for more of his musings.

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